A Norman Milkmaid at Greville (Laitière Normande à Gréville) is an oil painting by Jean-Francois Millet (1814- 1875) who was born in Gréville-Hague, Normandy. It is an oil on canvas and reflects the rural themes which had inspired Millet throughout his career. Painted in 1874, this is one of the artist's final pieces of work.
As a painter of the realism movement, Jean-Francois Millet had been strongly influenced by the English painter, John Constable who had exhibited in Paris in the 1820s. Renowned for his landscapes of the countryside of his native Suffolk, he inspired some of the younger painters to also draw their inspiration from nature. Millet was one of these and together with Théodore Rousseau and Charles-François Daubigny, he became a leader of the Barbizon School near the Forest of Fontainebleau. Millet moved on from painting just landscapes to include people in his work. Featuring the peasants who worked the land, he shifted the focus away from the wealthy landowners.
In 1870 the Franco-Prussian war caused Millet and his family to flee from Paris and Barbizon, returning to Greville and Cherbourg where he had grown up. He remained there until 1871. In this rural setting, the sight of peasant girls carrying a container of milk with a grass stopper would have been a common one and drawn from keen observation, this was the image replicated in A Norman Milkmaid at Greville.
In A Norman Milkmaid at Greville the painting is dominated by the female figure. Accentuated with a thick line, she stands out against the landscape and clear sky. She is dressed in a long grey skirt, a white blouse, and an orange corselet with a piece of blue fabric flung over her shoulder. She is the only person in the painting but behind her a cow peers over the fence. Presumably, this is the one she has just milked, filling the container which can be seen balanced on her shoulder. Unlike many of his early works where the subjects were shown bent over their tasks, their faces concealed from view, the milkmaid is looking ahead with her features on display.
Painted in 1874, shortly before Millet's death in January 1875, A Norman Milkmaid at Greville was not finished. It is currently in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.